The Best Anti-Aging Vitamin C Serums That Will Brighten, Firm, and Protect Skin

This superhero ingredient deserves a spot in your skin-care lineup.

Best Vitamin C Serums
Photo: Getty Images

If you're invested in your skin-care routine, chances are you're aware that applying vitamin C topically can make a huge difference in your complexion. The ingredient has been around for some time now, and if it's not already a part of your routine, you might want to reconsider. Here's a quick refresh on the benefits of adding vitamin C to your daily regimen.

The first thing to know is that vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant. "Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which means that it helps repair free radicals created from sun and environmental damage," says Beverly Hills-based dermatologist Naissan O. Wesley, M.D. What's more, it has anti-aging properties, since it helps the skin produce collagen naturally, says Dr Wesley. Because collagen depletes as you age, adding vitamin C to your routine supports collagen production, therefore helping skin maintain firmness, plumpness, and bounce. (Just because vitamin C helps protect the skin from UV damage, doesn't mean you can forego sunscreen though.)

Vitamin C also has brightening properties. It's a mild exfoliant that can help dissolve hyper-pigmented or discolored skin cells, New York City dermatologist Ellen Marmur, M.D. previously told Shape. In addition, "vitamin C also helps with pigmentary issues of the skin (such as hyperpigmentation) by indirectly inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is involved in melanin (or pigment) synthesis, through its antioxidant activity," adds Dr. Wesley. Translation: by inhibiting tyrosinase, vitamin C helps to prevent dark spots. In all, vitamin C helps fade existing spots and prevents the formation of new ones.

If you're looking to invest in the best formula possible, most vitamin C products contain amounts in the 8-20 percent range, points out Dr. Wesley. You want a concentration that's higher than 8 percent to get the maximum benefits, but going beyond 20 percent could cause irritation and doesn't actually increase the benefits.

The one drawback to vitamin C? It's almost as unstable as it is powerful. Translation: Exposure to air and sunlight can quickly render the ingredient inactive, New York City dermatologist Gervaise Gerstner, M.D. previously warned. To avoid this, choose products that are kept in dark brown or opaque bottles and store them in a cool, dry place, so that the sun doesn't impact the efficacy, advises Dr. Wesley. Also consider serums that combine vitamin C with ferulic acid, another potent antioxidant that actually helps stabilize vitamin C and boost its effects. Keep in mind that vitamin C serums last three to six months once opened; if your product gets a brown or dark orange hue — or if it starts out clear and turns yellow — it's oxidizing and won't be as effective, so it's time to toss it.

The good news is that vitamin C can be applied any time of day, and is safe to use on a regular, daily basis. The easiest way to introduce the ingredient to your skin-care routine it to harness it in a serum that can be applied in the morning or evening after cleansing and before moisturizing. "I will usually apply in the mornings, prior to sunscreen application, to allow it to help further protect and repair my skin from UV damage and other daily harmful skin exposures," says Dr. Wesley. (

Ready to shop? Keep scrolling for the best vitamin C serums, according to customer reviews.

01 of 12

TruSkin Vitamin C Facial Serum

best vitamin c serum truskin

With more than 50,000 five-star ratings, this is also Amazon's best-selling facial serum, making it a total no-brainer. Not only is it affordable (priced at just $20), but it also blends vitamin C with hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil, vitamin E, and witch hazel to brighten, soothe, hydrate, and minimize fine lines and dark spots.

One reviewer wrote: "I am a 43-year-old wife, mom of teen girls, and middle school math teacher. That equals stress on my skin. I also live in Texas (read: sun damage). I do take care of my skin, but lately it has been less than perfect. Two weeks of using this serum, and my 17-year-old tells me I look like I am in my 20's rather than 30's. Fine lines are going away. Acne scars fading. Pigmentation evening out. Even my neck and jawline are smoother. Now my husband wants some for his "dad neck." Will definitely reorder."

02 of 12

Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum

best vitamin c serum eva naturals

Another top-rated serum on Amazon, this one is great for acne-prone skin, since it combines vitamin C with salicylic acid, which helps to exfoliate skin and zap blemishes and blackheads. It also features hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and retinol to hydrate, plump, reduce inflammation, minimize wrinkles, lighten dark spots, and make pores appear smaller.

"I am a licensed esthetician who suffers from hormonal cystic acne that leaves horrible scarring on my sensitive skin," shared a customer. "My skin has improved so much since I started using this product!!! For the first couple of weeks, my skin purged out any underlying blemishes but afterwards was clearer and smoother than I've seen it in YEARS! I LOVE THIS PRODUCT!! I love that it not only target my acne scarring with the vitamin C, but also soothes the redness with the niacinimide and has anti-aging properties from the retinol AND helps minimize my black heads and pore size with the salicylic acid. It is the perfect product for my sensitive oily acne prone skin!"

03 of 12

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

best vitamin c serum mad hippie

This all-natural vitamin C serum is a cult-favorite among Amazon shoppers and beauty editors. It contains ferulic and hyaluronic acids to stabilize the vitamin C, greatly reduce discoloration and blemishes, and to give your complexion an all-over glow. Plus, it scores a rating of 1 by the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep, meaning it's safe for your skin and health. (Related: How to Deal with Hyperpigmentation In Your Skin)

"I've spent hundreds of dollars on products to lighten the dark spots on my face from acne scarring. This has been the only product that not only lightened the dark spots, but it didn't make me break out more! This is like liquid gold for me. I recommend this to anyone who has sensitive skin like me and is looking to get rid of the dark spots. I'm on my second bottle and I get compliments all the time that my skin looks like it's glowing. Also, for the first time in forever I leave out the house with only a tinted CC cream on my face and feel confident that my skin looks good! I will be a customer for life!" reported a shopper.

04 of 12

InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum

best vitamin c serum insta nuatral

Another hero vitamin C product on Amazon, this one is packed with vitamin c, ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, sea buckthorn oil, and plant stem cells to brighten, tone and tighten, hydrate and plump, protect your skin from free radical damage, and support healthy collagen production.

One fan said: "Since I started using this serum every day, I have noticed a significant difference in the texture and overall tone of my skin. I spend a lot of time in the sun and dark spots are my nemesis. This serum brightens my skin and has helped significantly reduce those nasty dark spots. Additionally, the array of ingredients in this serum work to hydrate my skin and I have been getting closer to that glowy complexion I've been striving for."

05 of 12

Yeouth Vitamin C and E Day Serum

best vitamin c serum yeouth

Mixing two powerful ingredients, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, this anti-aging serum hydrates skin, evens tone, neutralizes free radicals, fills in lines and wrinkles, and boosts collagen for a healthy, youthful glow. (Related: The Best Collagen Creams, According to Customer Reviews)

"I LOVE this product. I use it after I use my derma roller and it leaves my skin feeling super soft and smooth. It has also helped with some sun damage that I have from not using sunscreen over the years. It has definitely helped even out my skin tone. The best!" raved a customer.

06 of 12

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum

best vitamin c serum drunk elepehant

This good-for-your-skin serum boasts L-Ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), ferulic acid, vitamin E, antioxidants, nutrients, and fruit enzymes to brighten, firm, and improve signs of aging. On top of that, it contains pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract to dissolve dead surface skin cells and reduce the appearance of pores.

"Omg. Get out of here. I got this as a sample and I'm in so much trouble now because my skin LOVES it. I put it on in the morning and my skin is like 'Hello, thank you.' It gives me a luminous look when I go without makeup, and when I layer it under moisturizer and foundation? Forget it. I'm a supermodel. Just take my money already," said a shopper.

07 of 12

The Ordinary Vitamin C Brightening Serum

best vitamin c serum the ordinary

One of the more cost-effective options, this serum contains vitamin C derivative that reviewers say really brightens your skin. Not to mention, the formula is extremely lightweight and won't feel greasy after application, since it absorbs quickly. (Related: This The Ordinary Peeling Solution Is All Over TikTok)

One reviewer wrote: "I love this product. I can visibly see my dark spots disappearing! I have had many different laser treatments, including IPL, none of which have ever worked. But this product definitely does! I have only been using it a week and I can see a dramatic difference."

08 of 12

Biossance Squalane 10% Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum

best vitamin c serum biossance

This vitamin C serum works to brighten and firm skin, while correcting dark spots and targeting the formation of new ones, thanks to the addition of white shiitake mushroom extract. As a bonus, licorice root extract calms the look of discoloration.

"LOVE THIS SERUM! I struggle with hyperpigmentation and have tried so many different serums from brands like Drunk Elephant, L'Occitane, and Kiehls, all claiming to reduce dark sports and even skin tone. NONE of those products have worked for me (maybe because I didn't use sunscreen at the time either). However, this serum in combination with an SPF 50 sunscreen has worked wonders for my skin," reported a customer.

09 of 12

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

best vitamin c serum skinceuticals

It might be a splurge, but many dermatologists swear by the SkinCeuticals formula for nailing healthy skin and a youthful glow. This C E Ferulic serum combines vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid to improve signs of aging, brighten and firm skin, and neutralize free radicals. Plus, reviewers say you get a lot of bang for your buck, since the bottle lasts them months. (On a budget? Check out this $18 dupe.)

"I recently upgraded my skin-care routine after I noticed my skin was not the was it used to be. I have always had okay skin, not many breakouts but out of no where I was experiencing adult acne, hyperpigmentation, dullness, dry etc. After being put on retinol to help correct some of what I was experiencing, I decided to add the CE Ferulic to my routine. After I wash my face in the morning with a gentle cleanser, I use this and layer on the Hydrating b5 gel and moisturize with the Triple Lipid Restore. My skin has never been better! So much so others are commenting on how great it looks as well!" raved a shopper.

10 of 12

Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting and Brightening Serum

best vitamin c serum bliss

This serum contains vitamin C, hydrating glycerin, and tri-peptides to brighten skin, boost elasticity, and add moisture back into dry skin. Also nice: the formula is non-comedogenic, meaning that it won't block your pores and cause breakouts. (Related: Why Glycerin Is the Secret to Defeating Dry Skin)

"GREAT!! I had a frown wrinkle — from when I squint hard — starting to form between my eyebrows which made me very insecure. I've noticed a significant change in it to almost gone! My skin is also probably in the best shape it's been in a while, noticeably brighter," shared a fan.

11 of 12

Maelove The Glow Maker

best vitamin c serum maelove

Not only is this serum beloved by customers (it has a near-perfect five-star rating with more than 9,000 reviews), it also works wonders for your skin. Packed with vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic and hyaluronic acids, it packs an anti-aging, moisture-rich punch.

"I have the most sensitive skin ever! I have tried high dollar serums and still kept breaking out. I am now on my 4th bottle of Glow Maker and I get so many compliments on how great and hydrated my skin appears. My esthetician told me at my last hydrafacial that my skin was so happy! She normally tells me how dry and fussy my skin feels and I'd say...GLOW MAKER is my HERO!!! PS...I am in my late 40's," reported a reviewer.

12 of 12

BeautyCounter Counter All Bright C Serum

best vitamin c serum beautycounter

This game-changing formula contains two types of vitamin C to leave skin radiant, as well as antioxidant-rich turmeric and camu camu extracts to help protect against the appearance of new dark spots. All of these ingredients also help defend against environmental stressors, for more youthful-looking skin. (Related: The DIY Turmeric Mask Jourdan Dunn Uses to Reduce Acne and Dark Circles)

One customer wrote: "I'm really enjoying the smooth feel of this product, how it smells, and what it's doing for my skin already! Just started using it regularly this week and I am noticing a difference in the coloring of my skin in certain spots! Looking forward to keeping this in my regular lineup!"

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